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I’ve Had Only About A Decade Of Tabs That Actually Count

The Renata Adler of Poseidon's Undersea Kingdom.

Questions have reached me lately at the Today in Tabs remote island headquarters regarding my devoted coverage of every jot and tittle of the Lauren Oyler discourse. Let me clarify that I bear Oyler herself no ill will. I’ve enjoyed some of her criticism, I thought her entry in the Cruise Ship Piece genre (which I did eventually finish reading) was a delirious fiasco, and I personally related to her anxiety symptoms as much as I related to her perceptiveness in admitting that her book excerpt about them in The New Yorker had no point. But mainly I value her as the quadruple deuce’s highest megawatt nuclear generator of literary-critical chaos. Because, as I’ve said before:

I love mess.

Which is good news today because there are two brand new entries in the Oyler Discourse and another from last week that I somehow missed. That last one is a powder puff Q&A in The Paris Review with Sheila Heti, who still ever so gently managed to imply that Oyler doesn’t know very much:


One thing that distressed me in your collection was the sense that someone as obviously intellectual as you are nevertheless does not carry around in her head a library of references and quotes from decades of reading and remembering what she read. It seemed clear that many of your references came from Google Books searches or internet searches. It made me feel the relative shallowness of the contemporary mind that many of us share, compared to the intellectuals of the past who had a world of references inside them. Is this something you feel, or are bothered about in any way?”


Let’s first please allow that I am thirty-three years old, so I’ve had only about a decade of reading that actually counts. It’s probably true that I read the way a “digital native” reads, which is to say broadly and not as deeply, because of the way our technologies of reading work. But I don’t know if you’re right that many of my references come from, like, bopping around Wikipedia at 2 A.M., which is not something I do.

This denial of bopping around Wikipedia must be specific to 2 A.M., because Bookforum just published a pan of “No Judgement” by Ann Manov that makes Becca Rothfeld’s Washington Post review look comparatively kind, in large part by tracing Oyler’s references for more than one of the book‘s essays directly back to the Wikipedia pages she lifted them from.

But Oyler, highbrow shock jock, has no interest in changing her mind: she pitches “vulnerability” as its dumbest possible version, belaboring tumblr argot like “radical softness” rather than engaging potentially challenging arguments. So the only history Oyler is concerned with begins in 2010, with [Brené] Brown in a jean jacket on that purple-lit stage. How could Oyler have known about that other stuff, anyway? Brown’s talk is the only subject discussed under “Emotional” on the Wikipedia page “Vulnerability.”

This is just one quotable chunk—there is much more. Manov delivered both the thesis of her piece and its cleanest headshot in one sentence:

“Oyler clearly wishes to be a person who says brilliant things—the Renata Adler of looking at your phone a lot—but she lacks the curiosity that would permit her to do so.”

The Renata Adler of looking at your phone a lot” was such a good burn that the piece, which appeared first in print only, was passed around media group chats as a wonky scanned samizdat PDF until Bookforum put it up on the website today. I don’t ever remember seeing that happen before.

But what does Oyler think about all this? In a conversation with Steven Phillips-Horst for Interview magazine she makes it clear that she’s not mad, actually she’s laughing. Please don’t put in the newspaper that she’s mad. In fact she trolled you, and you fell for it!

OYLER: There’s one paragraph in the book, it’s the only intentionally provocative paragraph I’ve ever written.

PHILLIPS-HORST: I think I know what paragraph you’re talking about.

OYLER: Literally the headline is “Elitism.” And that’s why I’m going like, “Listen to all this elitist stuff that I do.” And it’s really interesting to see who falls for that, because I thought we knew what trolling was and had sort of moved past this irony vs. sincerity conversation.

Her list of a hick’s idea of what “elite culture” is (subtitles, “a decent percentage of the permanent collection,” opera, etc.)? Allegedly that was meant to be ironic. I’ve pondered myself into knots trying to decide what purpose that would possibly serve, but I can’t figure it out, so I guess she got me? Personally if I wrote something that dumb as a goof and everyone thought I was trying to be serious, I would walk into the sea and begin a new life in Poseidon’s kingdom, but that’s just me.

Louisa tooted: “[fumbling for my phone out of a dead sleep] Thomas Pinchin' would be a good name for a crab”

Its timing is coincidental but the judges have ruled that today’s Hate Read about Berlin is part of Lauren Oyler discourse. Today in Bad People: Ben Terris reports that ‘Alpha Male’ Nick Adams is doing a bit but also legitimately sucks in all the same ways his character does. I guess he’s “trolling” too. Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department. Lobstertok is melting down. Maybe you already knew this but Elon Musk doesn’t seem very smart. Speaking of which, have you checked out the latest hit shows on Netflitwitter or the new games on Roblotwitter? Good job, Elon.

New Topolsky website dropped. Not so much mobile-first as mobile-only, the desktop version confines itself to a narrow channel in the middle of the page. My early review is:


In Futurism Maggie Harrison Dupré reports that AdVon, the A.I. chum pump that she caught filling Sports Illustrated with junk articles by fake authors, has now “entered into a ‘close working partnership with Google Cloud’ to launch a product called AdVonAI.” I guess when Google said “you can’t do that!” they meant “…without us.”

The Washington Post’s bluesky account posted a quote of their own earlier post with a picture of the eclipse captioned “two queens coming together to maximize their joint slay,” which was, to put it mildly, not popular. Their comment in the quote is “two social editors coming together for a flop post, it's been a long day”

And finally, I’m catching strays from Hamilton Nolan today, who writes of columnists:

“The ability to succeed in this work depends not on education or intelligence or good character, but on having a particular personality type that causes you to always be thinking about stuff, along with an accompanying personality deformation that causes you to want to share those thoughts with the world.”

Tough, but fair. It’s mainly about the Pamelas Paul of the columnist set, and is very funny and accurate.

This is two late newsletters in a row, let’s get this thing out the door. Play us out Music Intern Sam:

Today’s Song: Universal Charging Squid, “[Hey!] Little Liam”

It’s finally warm and the hiking goblins are running wild in my bloodstream. Today on Trail is nearing its historic First Post and also recently gained these two adorable little tater tot mascots, created by Tabs’ Senior Junior Graphics Intern Garrett Miller:

Two adorable little tater tots with backpacks and boots, the right one somehow slightly smaller and younger seeming than the left, appear on a National Parks style sign that reads “Today on Trail”


I’m in love with them. So go sign up for that and you’ll be ready when I start gear-posting. If you signed up before and you didn’t get a welcome post, that’s because there isn’t one yet. I’m working on it. As long as you get the confirmation email and clicked the link in there, you’re good. If you didn’t get the confirmation email, check your spam!